Bible banned in Australian hospitals

The local Muslims disagree with the ban and how a Bible in a drawer can offend someone is difficult to see. Is Christian culture the only culture to be left out of "multiculturalism?

Bibles have been banned from hospital bedsides in Queensland because health bosses fear they will offend non-Christians. The controversial move has outraged religious leaders, who have branded the decision "multiculturalism gone mad".

The Royal Brisbane and Women's and Princess Alexandra hospitals in Brisbane are among the first to stop the Gideons testaments being left in patients' bedside tables. Staff said the Bibles were no longer in keeping with the "multicultural approach to chaplaincy", while some claimed the Bibles were removed because they were a source of infection.

Gideons International, which supplies Bibles for hospitals and hotels across the world, revealed many other hospitals in Australia had banned Bibles or were planning to do so. "They tell me they don't want to offend non-Christians," Gideons' Australian executive director Trevor Monson said. "It is a terrible shame because we get lots of letters from people who say having a Bible by their hospital bed has been a great source of comfort to them during their darkest days."

Queensland Multi Faith Health Care Council deputy chairman John Chalmers, who is also in charge of hospital chaplaincies for the Catholic Church in Brisbane, said he was saddened by the ban. "This is still a predominantly Christian country but unfortunately some people think the multifaith dialogue means that we don't mention Jesus," he said. "Putting a Bible in a drawer is not a matter of imposing it on other faiths. The patient doesn't have to take it out if they don't want to. "I think it is more offensive to present a bland environment with no Bibles."

Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jalal said the ban was unnecessary. "It is ridiculous to think that we might be offended by seeing a Bible in a drawer - it is an example of multiculturalism gone mad," he said. "Part of being a Muslim is that you have to be accepting of all religious texts."

Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall said: "Bibles in hospital bedsides are not forced on anyone and the many people who refer to them find comfort in doing so in times when they and their families are under great stress."

Prince Charles Hospital's Anglican chaplain John Swift said banning Bibles was "over the top" and his hospital had no plans to do so. "The practice of placing Bibles at hospital bedsides has been with us for many years and I don't think that should change now, especially when other faiths don't have a problem with it," he said. Cheryl Burns, executive director of nursing services, added: "Bibles by the beds are part of our caring and sharing philosophy and we want to look out for the patient by leaving one nearby so they can reach for it at any time of day or night."

But the Royal Brisbane and Princess Alexandra hospitals confirmed Bibles had been removed from bedsides. Royal Brisbane chaplain John Pryce-Davies said: "We used to keep Bibles in patient's lockers but multiculturalism kicked in and we had to remove them. "Now we only provide Bibles when they are requested by people and Gideons no longer have permission to deliver their Bibles. "Our policy is that when a patient leaves hospital they return the Bible to us or take it home with them - we don't want them left in the lockers. "That way, other faiths don't have to worry about finding a Bible there."

Hospital spokeswoman Tanya Lobegeier said: "If someone has a cold or anything and uses the Bible their germs could be passed on to the next person who reads it. "No one wants to go in the drawer to clean a Bible after every single person leaves." Princess Alexandra spokeswoman Kay Toshach said Bibles were available only on request. "We don't have Bibles by the bedside because of the issue of cleaning, and possibly that they may not be in keeping with the multicultural society we are in now," she said.



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